For those who knew Mark Hahn, they would be the first to tell you that he had a unique sense of humor, particularly at the race track. And since his untimely passing in 2004, and the formation of the Mark Hahn Memorial Havasu 300 by dear friend and fellow racer, Mike Follmer, Mark’s sense of humor has never dwindled. For last year’s unlucky 13th anniversary, the pits growled with murmurs that “Mark’s at it again” as winds whipped Lake Havasu into a violent maelstrom – by far the worst water conditions ever recorded for the event. Buoys broke from moorings. Seasoned racers were ejected from their craft. Even one stalwart athlete had his leg snapped in two as he was thrown from his ski. Almost invisible in the chest-high whitecaps, he was forced to swim miles into shore before being rescued and treated.
While this year’s 14th annual Hot Products Mark Hahn Memorial Havasu 300 presented by Yamaha featured no such perilous conditions, the mischievousness of Mark was easily at work. For several days leading to the Saturday morning event, all weather conditions – from satellite imagery, local knowledge and even ancient almanacs – all echoed the same report: 5-10 mph winds, 1-2 chop. Yet, as racers peered over the whitecapped lake at dawn, a strong northern wind filled the windsocks at 17mph, nearly doubling the predicted gusts. Chop boiled into waist-high white caps and racers were left scrambling to reconfigure their setups. So much of the Mark Hahn Memorial 300 depends upon the weather and water conditions; smooth water makes for a fast, top speed race. Chop (and worst) calls for slower, more conservative tunes.
Many teams came prepared for a virtual drag race, equipped with 83-plus-mph turbocharged Yamahas. In fact, the runabout lineup has been estimated at over 80-percent Yamaha – be them either full-sized FX SVHOs or smaller GP1800s. PWCOffshore.com’s own Mark Gerner came prepared with a R&D Performance-turbocharged Yamaha FX SVHO only to trailer it mere minutes before the race began, swapping out for a nearly bone-stock Kawasaki Ultra 310R. Gerner explained, “Kawasaki has won this race the last nine years straight and France’s Team Bruno Pastorello has won six times and the last three years straight.” Gerner’s 310R was completely stock minus an R&D intake grate and aftermarket ECU; unfortunately, the aftermarket ECU malfunctioned during the practice lap resulting in Gerner reinstalling the stock Kawasaki ECU and running the race as-is.
Of course, Pastorello was favored to win yet again, and the six-time champion opted to partner with his son, Hugo. For a second year, Canadian Mike Klippenstein entered into two classes: Open Runabout and Standup Ski. Doing double duty, Klippenstein would trade between his R&D T1 turbocharged 2018 Yamaha GP1800 (co-piloted with Marcus Jorgensen) and a ’18 Kawasaki SX-R 1500 that he shared with Theo Baumer. As the morning sun crept higher, so did the winds and whitecaps out on the water. This also plummeted air temperatures down to a frigid 39 degrees, only made worse by the 17 knot winds and bone-chilling water temperatures. It was expected that the race would be a grueling slog towards the necessary 30 10-mile laps, and many simply wouldn’t make it to the end. As promoter, Jim Russel’s 12-guage shotgun barked, cracking the air, racers sprinted down the pebbled shore into the crashing surf.
Few could leap high enough or far enough along to reach their waiting craft without being bitten by the freezing water. Almost instantaneously, ignitions of over 30 machines sparked, erupting into a cacophony of engines wringing to speed – the din echoing above the howling winds. Those aboard the heavier, stalwart Kawasakis fared best, their deep-V and steep deadrises serving their masters well as they battered through the waves. Lighter Yamahas and Sea-Doos were tossed erratically about. Seasoned AquaX racer, Anthony Radetic suffered a collision almost immediately aboard his brand-new 2018 Sea-Doo RXT-X 300, fracturing the bow and ending his race only three laps in. Those standup racers who smartly rode the massive 551-pound Kawasaki SX-R 1500 fared better than any standup ski racer before, as the heavy, runabout-inspired ski soaked up the chop far ahead of those who weren’t.
Several racers began showing early signs of frostbite and required immediate warmth. Cold weather slows down everyone, even those pit crew members waiting for their racer to come in for necessary fuel. Winds and waves kicked up higher and higher throughout the morning, and few thought things would improve. Yet, as if by request, weather inexplicably turned for the best, and water conditions calmed. Mark was up to his old tricks, many laughed. Over 15 laps into the race and suddenly, a whole new race course appeared. Thus far, Pastorello had lead the field; in fact, for the first few laps, the Top 10 into the chicane was almost entirely Kawasakis. Yet, with this sudden change in the weather, Pastorello would have to suddenly earn his crown. Klippenstein’s insanely-fast GP1800 poured on the boost, and the two began a dance that lasted until the race’s conclusion.
Changes made to preserve Klipper’s craft prior to the start of the race couldn’t be undone in time, so the multi-time World Champion had to win over Pastorello by riding, not sheer top speed. Fortunate for him, Pastorello had one major problem: he was sharing his pit crew and single-place trailer with another team, and on more than one occasion was Pastorello’s #8 310R seen floating aimlessly just off the beach waiting for his pit crew to finish fueling and unloading the other craft. This ate up valuable seconds, giving Klippenstein even more of an edge. Through smart riding, throttle control and capitalizing on an opponent’s poor planning, Klipper was gaining. The two traded the lead four times in less than 10 laps, and by nary 30-seconds Klippenstein and Jorgensen pulled ahead of Pastorello after 4 hours and 20 minutes.
The win was also the first for a Yamaha in 13 years, the first and only being that of Mike Follmer and teammate Billy Womack back in 2005 aboard a 2-stroke GP1300R. Of all of the finishes, the most impressive was easily the performance of Jon Phan, alongside teammates Kole Cramer and Tyler Kowalski, who not only completed the most laps by a standup, but also broke into the Top 10 Overall aboard the new Kawasaki SX-R 1500. In all, the Mark Hahn Memorial Havasu 300 continues as the only PWC race of its kind anywhere in the world, and is always throwing willing to throw a few curve balls at racers. And we don’t think Mark would have it any other way.
2018 14th Annual Hot Products Mark Hahn Memorial Havasu 300, Presented by Yamaha Overall Race Results: 1. Klippenstein/Jorgensen (30 laps), 2. Jean Bruno Pastorello/Hugo Pastorello (30 laps), 3. Mark Gerner/Juan Francisco (29 laps) 4. Tony Beck/Chris Fischetti (27 laps0, 5. Andreas Kubatzki (26 laps), 6. Renee Hill/Tyler Hill (25 laps), 7. Dave Chassier/Jeremy Poiret (24 laps), 8. Mark Conroy/Lauren Conroy (24 laps), 9. Fadi Sacre/Troy Morgan (24 laps), 10. Jonathan Phan/Tyler Kowalski (24 laps), 11. Cassius Sanders (23 laps), 12. Clinton Peterson (22 laps), 13. Gerry Wong/Charles Anderson (21 laps), 14. Kevin Dickes/Chris Caputo (21 laps), 15. Joey Burkhalter (20 laps), 16. Mike Klippenstein/Theo Baumer (20 laps), 17. Jeremy Poper/Rick Kantola/Tim Warner (20 laps), 18. Gerry Wong/Vasilis Moraitis/Derrick Powell (20 laps) 19. Justin Black/David Palmer (19 laps), 20. Omar Leon/Santiago Kuan (18 laps), 21. Brian Smith/Kurt Samuels/Tim Miller (18 laps), 22. Jo Jo Thompson/Javier Cartaya (17 laps), 23. Kelly Kantola/Bridgett Poper/Becky Cooper (17 laps) 24. Reese Maricich/Tyler Shenko (16 laps), 25. Glenn Powell/Brandon Edwards/Brian Edwards (16 laps) 26. Jack Chang/Tom Phan (16 laps), 27. Cooper Schexnyder (15 laps), 28. Brock Austin/Woods Cross (15 laps), 29. Jeff Lysdale (12 laps), 30. Mitchell Wayt/Brett Douglas (9 laps), 31. James Gagnon (9 laps), 32. Louis Nguyen/Tony Hoa (3 laps), 33. Anthony Radetic (3 laps), 34. Matthew Goade/Tiffany Taylor/Corey Van Cleave (2 Laps)